The Environment is in Our HandsThe choices we make everyday will make lasting impressions on the environment and through small decisions every day, we can either make a positive or a negative impact on our natural world. Many of these options are low- or no-cost, but have large savings to both your budget and the environment.

Take a shorter shower. With conventional plumbing (no water saving devices), a shower consumes between seven and ten gallons of water per minute. Taking a shorter shower could immediately cut down on daily water usage, but an even better eco-friendly choice would be to install a reduced-flow shower head.

Compost food scraps. By composting food waste, you cut down on the amount of garbage that populates landfills and you are turning organic ingredients into soil that can be used around your yard and garden. Besides fruit and vegetable peels and ends, you can compost eggshells and coffee grounds.

Use biodegradable plastic bags for your garbage. These bags will breakdown in the landfills much sooner than traditional plastic bags. Be careful not to let them get too wet while they're still in your kitchen garbage can or they can start to leak or tear.

Make your own lunch for work and take washable utensils and dinnerware. Many cafeterias and restaurants are beginning to use environmentally-friendly biodegradable plates and/or corn plastic utensils, but many don't. Some eateries still use polystyrene foam for their take-out customers. Polystyrene foam does not biodegrade and is typically not accepted in curbside recycling programs.

Avoid serving-size packages. For convenience, products are often offered in smaller, single serving-size packages. Admittedly, this can make it easy to prepare lunch or grab a snack, but it also creates more plastic that will end up in a landfill. Instead, buy a large bag and fill a reusable container with your own single serving of the food item.

Turn of lights when rooms are not in use. Teach your kids to do this, too, and they will help you remember.

Keep the inside temperature of your house cooler and stay warm by wearing sweaters, using blankets or getting up and moving around to stay warm.

Take your own reusable grocery bags on shopping trips or when possible, opt for no bag at all and just put your merchandise in a backpack or in your car.

Don't buy things you don't need. By avoiding the purchase of unnecessary items, you save money, but you also lessen the demand for products and reduce the amount of packaging materials that would have been destined for a landfill.

Donate what you can afford toward renewable energy research projects. Check out the website for your power company to see if they have any programs to which you could donate. They may even have the option to add a small charge to your bill so that you can give automatically with every bill payment.

Use fluorescent light bulbs instead of the traditional incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs, although more expensive to purchase, use less energy to operate and last longer that incandescent bulbs.

Buy used instead of new. So many items we purchase in our daily lives could be purchased used. It costs less and it also lessens the demand and creation of new products and saves yet more items from getting thrown away. Clothes, DVDs, books, toys, games and electronics can all be found used. Look for quality secondhand stores to purchase these items.

Shop locally. By shopping in your neighborhood and city as much as possible, especially for items made and grown there, you help reduce the consumption of resources used in transport and emissions released into the atmosphere, contributing to environmental pollution.

Wrap gifts in something that is part of the gift or make your own wrapping reusing items that you already have in your house, such as newspaper, brown grocery bags, fabric, pages out of an old atlas and also ribbon and string that you've saved from other packages.

Buy for quality. When looking to buy new items, buy for quality. The price will likely be higher but you will have something that will last for a long time and won't need to be replaced nearly as soon as something of inferior quality.

By making small choices every day in the ways we consume items and live our lives, the impact on the environment will ultimately be huge. We can reduce the consumption of the planet's resources and cause less air pollution and less garbage going into landfills by making thoughtful decisions every day.

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